Watch: The Bob Marley: One Love cast discuss having the singer's real family involved in the film
The biopic finds Marley at a particular point in his life, following him after an assassination attempt was made on December 3, 1976 and how surviving the experience led to the creation of his album Exodus. Ben-Adir portrays Marley in the film, and the actor, his co-star Lashana Lynch and director Reinaldo Marcus Green expressed their gratitude towards his widow Rita Marley, their son Ziggy and daughter Cedella for being an essential part of the process.
"It was everything, everything," Ben-Adir reiterates. "I learned about him, I learned about who Bob was as a human being, as a father, as a friend, who he was as a child, what he was like in his teenage years. The struggles that he went through, the weight he was carrying on his shoulders, how much music meant to him, how dedicated he was to his craft, the mission that he felt he was on at the time.
"Everything I learned about Bob Marley I learned through his family and I learned from his friends."Kingsley Ben-Adir
"I read the books because I wanted to get a sense of timelines and when certain things happen —you have to do that work just to make sure you feel confident in that— but after that it was about listening to Bob and then listening to his friends and family, and I had a huge amount of help."
Ben-Adir claims he's "never had more coaches on a job", revealing that there were eight or nine people on set at any one time to help him perfect his portrayal of Marley, from his voice to his mannerisms onstage. He adds that he feels there "wouldn't have been a movie" without Marley's family being involved.
"It was a real joy and and I don't think it's sunk in yet, the journey that we've been on," the actor goes on. "There was so much work to do, I met Ziggy [but] there was no time to find it surreal, there was no time to be like 'wow', you know?
"It wasn't about celebrating anything, it was like 'we've got a job to do' and the job is to really represent Bob, and the way that he spoke and who he was as a human being in the best way that we can in the time that we have. I was only able to do that because Ziggy and Neville Garrick were with me every day on set."
Lynch, who was able to meet her real-life counterpart Rita Marley in person, admits it was helpful to meet so she could understand the way she should approach the role, but what she learned from the experience wasn't what she expected from it.
"I went in meeting Mrs Marley, which I did on two occasions, kind of like a child, just sat in front of her on the floor soaking her in," Lynch says.
"[I] went in with loads of questions, wanted loads of answers, one had all of the facts and then I realised very quickly that maybe I was approaching it a little too intellectually really."Lashana Lynch
"I think the most important thing as we know from Bob's journey is that they're spiritual beings, and I think once you understand their level of spirituality —how important it is to them and what their energy does to people— that's what determined how I was gonna approach the role, how I was gonna approach the scenes, and just how I was gonna improvise as her.
"So when me and Kingsley make up something on the spot I want everything to be rooted in spirituality and to be completely authentic, and I'm really glad that I was able to meet her. As a woman of Jamaican heritage, it was special for me personally, but also it's just such a treat to be able to meet a person that's real that you're playing, it's kind of an honour."
Green knew from the outset that he wanted to make the film with the Marley's blessing and involvement from the get go, because his experience making King Richard showed how essential it was to making a good biopic.
"I felt like Bob was on set through his daughters, through his sons and we're getting these waves of Bob, [it was] spiritual and it was amazing."Reinaldo Marcus Green
The director reflects: "I would not have made the film if they were not involved, after my experience on King Richard I knew that that was critical to the success of that film. [To understand] the nuances of the characterisation of each person that we were depicting, and it's their story.
"There's been over 500 books written about Bob Marley, so who's telling the truth? Who's truth is it? And to have the family who knew him, who spent time with him or in rooms with him, that felt like a great place to start."
A snapshot in time
Green approaches Marley's life in a different way to how viewers might be expecting, as it doesn't tell his story from his childhood to his death in 1981 but specifically focuses on his life in 1976, the creation of his 1977 album Exodus and the world tour he went on to support it.
"It just was a critical time in Bob's life and and not only Jamaican history but U.S. history, world history," Green says of choosing the time period he did. "Bob was a Jamaican star but he wasn't a global star at that point.
"After the assassination attempt on his life —which [for] many people you probably wouldn't come back out after that— he doubles down and then creates Exodus, which is arguably the greatest album of the 20th century."Reinaldo Marcus Green
"He left us with that gift, and so this rich period of of musical creation and then, as we turned to Jamaica, there was an inherent structure there that told us a lot about the essence of the man. All the albums that he created before it and all the albums that came after it felt like this sat right at the right time for us to give us an insight as to what was happening in his life, in the world, at the time."
Green goes on: "And then we saw him go from just being just a musician to a revolutionary, a global superstar — the guy that you see on T-shirts. We wanted to see the man behind all of that and this just felt like the most natural place to do it."
Lynch admits that because of her Jamaican heritage she was keen to ensure Green approached the story in the right way, one that would be "authentic" to Bob and Rita Marley's life. Arguing that "biopics are very complicated", the No Time to Die star felt the director made the right call to focus on one period in time.
She says: "I think that sometimes when you go from birth through their career, it's just too much story to tell. Whereas I think he made a really good decision in taking this slice of life with so much that was happening and it gave us, as the other characters, more to do because we got to respond to everything that was happening in different countries at the time.
"He just gave us the freedom, the freedom to be, and I think respected the fact that we were researched and capable, and really had an emotional connection to the story, especially me."Lashana Lynch
"I came in with 'I'm Jamaican, we need to do the story right', that's what I came in with when I first spoke to him. So he knew that I just wanted to have an authentic, grounded version of this woman who deserved her flowers, and that's exactly what we did."
Bob Marley: One Love is out in cinemas on Friday, 16 February.
Watch the trailer for Bob Marley: One Love